Happy Times DVD review

Film / Video Reviews
Happy Times DVD review
Dec 3, 2002, 14:17

HAPPY TIMES directed by Zhang Yimou; Sony Pictures Classics, 2002

The title as well as the ad campaign supporting the release of Happy Times is a bit deceptive. Those behind the marketing campaign would have you believe that this film is a romantic comedy, but it's really about an unlikely relationship between a middle-aged bachelor and a young blind girl. The film begins with Zhao (Zhao Benshan) and his fiancée making wedding plans. The film is set in motion when the somewhat impoverished Zhao deceptively agrees to spend 50,000 yuan on his future wedding knowing that he doesn't have that kind of money. But Zhao isn't the only one hiding behind deception as we discover his bride-to-be is really not as forthright or sweet as she pretends to be, treating her spoiled, overweight son as a king while mistreating and neglecting her blind stepdaughter, Wu Ying (Dong Jie).

Zhao, desperate to come up with the money for his wedding, turns to his best friend who comes up with the idea of renovating an old VW bus that has been abandoned in a nearby park. The bus is to serve as a romantic hideaway for young lovers, but the plan is spoiled when the city removes the eyesore. Already having promised his fiancée that he would find Wu Ying a job at his new “hotel”, Zhao sets up a fake massage parlor to both appease his bride-to-be as well as help Wu Ying. What follows is a touching display of humanity displayed by Zhao and his friends and an unlikely friendship between two lonely people. It's the scenes in which this friendship starts to develop that really let us know what this film is about. What follows is a bittersweet ending that plays on sentiment rather than resolution.

While there are bound to be some dismayed by the overtly western themes sprinkled throughout Happy Times, it is a film that deserves to be seen and recognized for the portrayal of warm, genuine characters who serve others rather than themselves.

-Troy Brookins

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